Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 27th Apr 2011 21:40 UTC
Apple Apple has responded to the location data thing, and as it turns out, most of us moderate folk were completely right. Apple claims the data isn't sent to Apple, and that the storing of the information is a bug Apple will fix in the coming weeks. Still a very nasty and potentially dangerous bug, but not the massive privacy issue many made it out to be. Also, a new colour iPhone is out, which, if you were to believe the gadget and Apple sites, is yet another Apple revolution.
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Thom, I don't get how you arrive to the conclusion that it's not a massive privacy issue.

I'll agree that it is a privacy issue, but I don't think "massive" is justified. Of course I guess it depends on how paranoid you are...

The location database is at least present (synced) on all your iPhones and Macs that you synced with each other. If any of these gets stolen or intruded into, your geographic location history across all your iPhones is compromised.

But its not exactly your location history. As has been explained before (and now straight for Apple's mouth), it is a history of cell and wifi locations you have been in the broad vicinity of. Granted, this information can be used to determine that you were in a certain city or that you traveled along a general route on certain dates, but it cannot be used to reliably pin-point your location accurately. From what I have read, it can be used to "statistically" determine your home address for example - but it can easily be totally wrong if you work nights and spend more time at work than at home (for instance). Not making excuses for Apple or anything, just saying it is technically not logging your location.

That said, I still think it was a pretty severe privacy breach, but not because of what they were doing specifically, rather because there were doing it over such a long time period. It they limit the data to only the last few hours or something like that I don't see a problem with it (assuming they stop putting it in the damned backups and wipe it when the user turns off location services).

What if your spouse hired a private to spy on you? What if you get arrested in a country where the police may decide that it's entitled to look at your phone? Privacy is not just about data getting sent to Apple or to websites. There's a reason why some data is considered unsafe to store unencrypted. If Apple had a legitimate reason to store such data on your iPhone, the least they should have done was to encrypt it.

I agree. That claim in the article that is what they will be doing in the future. We'll see I guess.

Reply Parent Score: 4

mrstep Member since:

"Massive" would be if Apple were uploading all of that data to their servers and keeping it forever, like, say... Google? But that aside, it sounds like a combination of bug and half-planned feature, so a bug that it shipped and kept the whole history instead of trimming it. It certainly makes sense from the perspective they talked about, i.e. making location lookups faster by keeping some of the WiFi / cell information for a quicker lookup - consider the WiFi-name-based location lookups.

I'm wondering - do we cell phone users NOT think that the phone company probably has some logs somewhere doing the same thing? From stories told about the telecoms, they have switches built in for all of the Echelon monitoring and it seems they regularly provide logs to the police that contain phone locations. At least this was just on our own devices, and it sounds like it will be removed/encrypted shortly.

If you get arrested in a country where the police feel they can just download everything from your phone, ... oh wait, like the US in certain states now! ... well, they'll probably 'find' a bag of cocaine in your jacket pocket if they're in a bad mood anyway, or claim you were resisting arrest and beat you for the fun of it, so your phone's location history is probably the least of your worries. Hell, they may find you in contempt if you don't give them access to the encrypted location file that you don't even have the private key to. ;)

Reply Parent Score: 3

Vietman Member since:

For a decade, all cell phone manufacturers have been required to install backdoors into their phones which the NSA can tap into at will to listen to you, even when you're phone is off and/or not on a call. It's a design feature, not a bug. So this location tracking from Apple should not come as a surprise, considering the initial precedent that has already been set.

Reply Parent Score: 1

mrhasbean Member since:

do we cell phone users NOT think that the phone company probably has some logs somewhere doing the same thing?

For some of those who post here I guarantee they don't ... think. And it's precisely the case telcos do collect that information. Having seen some police "evidence" from a case involving a friend's grandson I can attest that it would curl the hairs on the back of most people's neck to know just how much info telcos collect about you. Then there's the likes of Google who not only collect the data but make it indirectly available to anyone who pays them - where are the constant stream of negative articles and comments about them?

Yet because this is "Evil Apple" storing YOUR location information on YOUR own device that is backed up to another of YOUR own devices that YOU'RE responsible for securing, and even though they don't take or use that information despite the license agreement theoretically allowing them to, it's some huge issue.

Meanwhile back at the ranch Google does yet another backflip on their "free" services wanting even more people to pay for the privilege of being tracked, and it doesn't even rate an article...

Reply Parent Score: 1